Event: World Vision Basketball Classic
Teams: UC Davis vs. Iowa State; Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Loyola Marymount
Records: Aggies, 0-0; Cyclones, 0-0; Panthers, 0-0; Lions, 0-0
Where: Hilton Coliseum – Ames, Iowa
When: Today at 5 p.m. PST; Saturday at 1 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Radio: KFSG 1690 AM (all three games)
Who to watch: Sophomore forward Joe Harden will make his long-anticipated debut for UC Davis in today’s season opener. A 6-foot-8, 210-pound transfer out of Notre Dame, Harden steps onto the court already considered the team’s best player and a sleeper for Big West Conference Player of the Year.
“We’re going to play him all over the floor,” head coach Gary Stewart said. “He’s one of our best 3-point shooters. He’s a guy that handles the ball. He’s our best back-to-the-basket player.”
Harden posted a double-double in each of the team’s two exhibition games, averaging 15 points, 12.5 rebounds in 26.5 minutes.
Did you know? If there’s a player flying under the radar for UC Davis entering the season, it’s Julian Welch.
Stewart has called the freshman out of Franklin High the most ready-to-play true freshman he’s had since first coaching at UC Davis in 2003.
“He’s been, at times, our best player [in practice],” Stewart said. “He’s a terrific scorer – we haven’t had anybody like him. He can get separation, he can get his own shot, he can put the ball on the floor. At his size, he’s the best rebounder we’ve had here at both ends of the floor. He’s got a really, really bright future. We’re really excited for him.”
Preview: If UC Davis had a multi-year calendar and was to predict when its program would see its turnaround, the 2008-2009 season would be circled in black ink, underlined in red and brushed over with a bright neon-yellow highlighter.
For the Aggies, this is it.
After four straight losing seasons, the team brings more athleticism, depth and experience to the table than in years past and by season’s end expects to have the win total to show for it.
Along with Harden and Welch, sophomore Hawaii transfer Todd Lowenthal, sophomore Shasta College transfer Derek Oestreicher (originally out of New Mexico State) and redshirt freshman Adam Malik will all be making their Aggie debuts.
Last year’s Big West Conference Freshman of the Year Mark Payne returns to run the Princeton offense at point guard. Sophomore Ryan Silva provides a spark off the bench, and Dominic Calegari is UC Davis’ lone junior.
Vince Oliver, David Carter, Kyle Brucculeri, Michael Boone and Nathan Clark provide the senior leadership for a team figuring to have its “coming out party” at the Division I level.